UK human rights under the spotlight with appointment of New Zealand expert

Monday 11 January 2016

Human rights researcher and former newspaper editor Professor Judy McGregor, has been named as the NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor to London for 2016. She will be based at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS), a member of the University of London's School of Advanced Study, from September to December 2016.

Currently head of Auckland University of Technology’s School of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Professor McGregor [left], who was the first equal employment opportunities commissioner in New Zealand, says she is deeply honoured to have been awarded the Visiting Professorship. ‘I am delighted to have the opportunity to foster debate about the critically important global human rights agenda and to draw on the New Zealand experience.’

She will study how to improve the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight of human rights to address democratic deficits. While the UK has a Joint Committee on Human Rights, a pre-eminent model of a human rights, New Zealand has no formal parliamentary mechanism and relies on a ‘mainstreaming’ approach across parliamentary select committees.

‘My aim, is to examine what works best in terms of frameworks for parliamentary scrutiny of human rights and how this impacts on perceptions of legitimacy for parliament in acting on human rights issues,’ explains Professor McGregor.

‘How human rights are progressed “on the ground” in daily life is of critical importance globally and while New Zealand and the United Kingdom share some traditions of legislation, policy and practice we also differ in approaches and mechanisms for implementation.’

During her tenure Professor McGregor will deliver four lectures on human rights treaty obligations and how state parties implement their obligations. The lectures will cover issues such as:

  • the United Nations harmonised treaty body reporting process and what lessons can be learnt from  country experiences in the Universal   Periodic Review
  • gender equality and why so much still has to be done on issues such as equal pay and violence against women
  • the media’s role in promoting global human rights in conflict and crisis
  • the monitoring of disability rights and issues of State Party accountability

‘I am very much looking forward to the opportunity the Visiting Professorship provides to pursue these issues, and to contributing to the mission of the Foundation and to academic debate on human rights in the UK,” she adds.

Professor McGregor has written and edited seven books, including one exploring the employment of older workers. She is a trained lawyer, and is no stranger to the UK having held fellowships at the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh.

‘We are very much looking forward to welcoming Professor McGregor to the School,’ says says Professor Philip Murphy, deputy dean of SAS and director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. ‘Her presence here will augment our strong cluster of human rights expertise in the ICWS and in the School’s Human Rights Consortium. This will be a valuable opportunity for British scholars to benefit from Professor McGregor’s experience.’

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Notes for editors:

1. For further information please contact Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8653 / Maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk. Images available on request.

2. The Visiting Professors are chosen by a selection panel comprising NZ-UK Link Foundation Trustees and Professors at the University of London.

3. The NZ-UK Link Foundation is a registered charity whose primary objective is to make ‘an ongoing substantial contribution to the intellectual, educational, vocational and academic underpinning of the bilateral relationship in a changing world’. www.nzuklinkfoundation.org

4. The School of Advanced Study, University of London (SAS) is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2014-15, SAS: welcomed 805 research fellows and associates; held 2,073 research dissemination events; received 23.1 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 213,456 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities: Being Human. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.

5. Each year the School welcomes around 170 visiting research fellows who benefit from its unique research resources and multidisciplinary scholarly community. In addition to visiting fellowship programmes, the School offers professorial, honorary and senior research fellowships. Through the hosting of these fellowships, the School fulfils its overall aims of enriching the research infrastructure of its national and international subject communities and other stakeholders. www.sas.ac.uk/support-research/fellowships/visiting-fellowships

6. Professor Judy McGregor is head of Auckland University of Technology’s School of Social Sciences and Public Policy and associate dean with responsibility for postgraduate studies. She is a trained lawyer, former newspaper academic with a PhD in political communication and former Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. She has wide expertise in media sociology, representation, human rights and social justice issues. Her specific interests lie in discrimination issues, women's rights, gender equality in governance, management professional and public life, equal pay and the employment of ethnic and minority groups. She is interested in all aspects of human rights law particularly civil and political rights and is currently engaged in New Zealand Law Foundation-funded research assessing the impact of New Zealand’s ratification of the international treaty bodies.